My name is Will Spry, and you’ve probably never heard of me – but I’ve spent the last two years developing a new coffee product: the Cold Drip King which is currently on Kickstarter. But in the meantime, I’ve learnt a lot about product development and I’m here to share that with you.
Designing Cold Drip King hasn’t been an easy process. It’s been a steep learning curve. But here are the four stages that, had I known them at the beginning, might have sped up my progress.
Hours have been spent in this shed, developing what I hope will be a game changer. Credit: Will Spry
1. Think Kaizen
Kaizen (改善) is a Japanese word meaning improvement. When it comes to work, it’s the concept of continually seeking ways to eliminate waste and increase productivity. And the great thing about it is that it’s the responsibility of all people within an industry to participate in it. So when you apply kaizen to coffee, it tells us that the next great innovation might come from a daily home brewer like you or me.
The spirit of kaizen is curious. It leads to the questions that give birth to new products. Take these questions; can you guess what they resulted in?
- Why isn’t there a home coffee maker that makes a single serve coffee?
- Why do we have to throw away so many takeaway cups every day?
- How can I declutter, simplify, and add precision to the coffee brewing process?
At the time, these products were game changers. Yet now, it’s hard to imagine the world of coffee without the AeroPress, KeepCup, and Acaia scale.
The individuals who brought these products to life probably weren’t the first to ask those questions, but they were the first to successfully discover a way to bring the solution to life. It’s exciting to think of the innovations that will be part of our coffee routines in the coming years, as more people think of ways to improve the process.
The AeroPress went through a number of design variations in its development. Credit: Aerobie
2. Protect Your Idea
So you have an idea. A kaizen-inspired, revolutionary idea that could change coffee forever.
Let me tell you know that, if you really want to pursue it, you’re in for a wild and exciting ride which will require a significant investment of both your time and money. For me, it has been one of the most exciting and worthwhile things I have ever done.
I’m going to assume that, if you’ve kept reading, you’re open to pursuing it. So how do you take it from daydream to concept?
The first conundrum lies in keeping your great idea a secret, so that a “big company” doesn’t steal it. This is a real issue as well-resourced people are always on the lookout to profit from good ideas.
Sounds simple, right? No. The truth is that sharing your idea with other people may be risky, but it’s also one of the best ways to determine the strength of your concept. Knowledgeable people and experts in the field will always expose questions that you hadn’t thought of. They’ll let you know if your idea has potential. And for me, they provided another perspective that further improved on my initial idea.
There are two ways you can protect yourself. If your idea is worth protecting, you can take out a preliminary patent. This is a low-cost submission of your idea that sets a starting date for the intellectual property. It’s a good idea to get some legal help in putting this together so you definitely understand the process.
The second thing you can do is, if you’re unsure about a person, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement before you even begin your conversation.
Keep a dated notebook with thoughts, questions, ideas, breakthroughs, and milestones (and even daily to-do lists) is a great way to track the development of a project and stay on track. Credit: Will Spry
3. Stay Real – Will It Work?
Yet before you invest in a preliminary patent or anything else, ask yourself and some trusted people these questions:
- Is there a similar product out there belonging to a potential competitor?
- What will make a customer pick your product over that one?
- What’s your point of difference?
- Is it interesting? Will the customer care?
- How much will they be willing to buy it for?
- How much will it cost to make, package, and ship?
- Where will you get the product made?
- What will your wholesale price be?
- Will you sell to wholesalers or direct to consumers?
- How will you bring the product to market?
These are tough questions and chances are you won’t be able to answer them all by yourself – yet working out the answers will steer you in the right direction. And it’s crucial that you do gain an understanding of each of these elements, since you’ll be the one coordinating the project in the early stages.
One of the early 3D printed prototypes of Cold Drip King. Credit: Will Spry
4. Make It Happen
First, evaluate your resources. And that includes people. It’s important to identify your own personal strengths and weaknesses as well as the amount of time and money you’ll have to spend on the project. While you’ll always be your cheapest employee, sometimes it’s more economical, from a time point of view, to employ someone who has the right skills. You may also be able to find a student who is looking for a project to work on as part of their studies or a professional willing to work for equity in the product.
Once you’ve done that, you can actually get started. The most important thing to develop is a prototype or “proof of concept”. This is an initial model or functioning machine that shows your idea or technology actually works. It doesn’t’ always need to be pretty;; our initial model had parts pulled from and old sigma engine, slices of pool noodle, and other stuff found around the house. Despite the possible poor looks, this is what gets investors and people in the industry excited about what you’re doing. And when there’s excitement, people start to actively help you to take your product forward.
Once you have your proof of concept, your options depend on the individual product. You may look to get investors involved to fund the first round of production and marketing. Another option will be to utilise crowdfunding to raise money and generate buzz around your product.
I hope this article might inspire you to start thinking of new ways to brew coffee. Credit: Toby Spry
Sound impossible? It’s not. Bringing a new product and idea into the world is an exhilarating and rewarding process. So if you feel up for the challenge, I would definitely recommend going down the path of making your ideas a reality.
Creator of Cold Drip King
Perfect Daily Grind